No-Sample Sunday

Afterburn cover2aBecause ‘Afterburn’ is here, and AVAILABLE NOW on Amazon!

This one was both fun and challenging to write, I definitely wanted to do justice to the love story between Chris and Robyn, but also the love story between a man and his children, as he grows into a love of fatherhood after living a life of studious non-attachment.

I can’t lie–I’m eager to hear what you think! So as you read, feel free to stop by with comments to this post and let me know what moves you, disappoints you, makes you think … whatever your reaction, I’m open to hearing it.

Some writers write for money or fame (and don’t get me wrong, those things are probably great) but I want to know I made you feel something. So tell me if I did. I’m listening.

Happy Reading!

N,

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘Afterburn’ — coming April 2014

Chris2A

“So how are Robyn and the baby?” Karen asked.

The same question, asked by his eldest son’s mother, Sheryl, would have come with an ulterior motive, but Karen wasn’t like that. Chris looked at her. She was still pretty, and had given Jasmin the same perfectly-shaped mouth, perky little nose and large eyes. But now Karen was a little more of a comfortably upper middle-class suburban Mom, and less the unsophisticated young woman she’d been when they first met.

She was curvier, carrying about ten or fifteen extra pounds and her hair, once almost waist-length was now in a short bob below her ears; once almost pitch-black, now colored auburn. And she wore much less make-up, blending in with the women in this small, affluent town who knew how to tastefully enhance their appearance without being showy about it.

Today Karen wore a pair of jeans and a light summer sweater with Chanel flats, her once slender figure, a little less so. Over her shoulder was a Balenciaga hobo and in her right hand, she jingled the keys to the new Audi SUV Chris had bought her just that year.

“Robyn and the baby are good,” Chris said unlocking his car, preparing to get in.

He didn’t like talking to either Karen or Sheryl about Robyn even in passing, thinking it insensitive to belabor the fact that he was engaged to her when he’d never even considered such a step with either of them. Karen in particular had to be curious about Robyn because after all, she had loved and lived with Chris for years before their break-up, had borne him two children, and yet he had never once even hinted at wanting to make her his wife.

Sheryl was married now herself, so—even though she was probably cheating on the poor bastard—she probably didn’t care as much as Karen might.

“Are you ever going to introduce us?” Karen asked, keeping her voice light. “Jas talks about her all the time, so I know she’s probably a wonderful …”

“Yeah, sometime maybe. I better go. Traffic.”

Karen sighed. “Okay. Kaden wanted to see you, but I don’t suppose you have time to stop by the house. He’s with the sitter.”

“Wish I could, but I have a conference call that I need to get home for. He’s coming with Jas this weekend, right?’

Karen nodded. “Right.”

“Good, so I’ll see him then. Tell him I said I miss him, okay?”

Kaden was only six. His younger son was the sensitive one. The one who cried when he left, who told him every single time he was on the phone, “I miss you, Daddy,” in that sweet, baby voice he was just beginning to grow out of.

“Okay, well next time maybe you can build in a little more time,” Karen said.

She was lingering by the open door of his car as he got in, and Chris sensed that there was something more she wanted to say.

“You a’ight?” he asked on a whim. “Everything cool otherwise?”

“Hector and I broke up,” Karen said suddenly. She pursed her lips and shook her head. “Which shouldn’t be a huge surprise. But anyway …”

Chris paused with one leg in the car, one still resting on the pavement outside. He and Karen had never been ‘friends’. Not throughout their relationship and not now. Then, she had been too much in awe of him to become a confidante, too … grateful that he’d chosen her. Her humility, Chris had later come to think of as low self-esteem, and a general lack of confidence.

Every day that they were together, Karen seemed to have been thinking: thank you for choosing me, thank you, thank you. After a while it almost literally made him sick. Even while he cheated on her, didn’t come home, forgot important milestones, her attitude was thank you, thank you …When he’d finally gotten the guts to end it, after their son was born, it was a relief. The weight of her unjustified adoration and of his shame for treating her in a manner she did not deserve had been too heavy.

And now? Now, they were very cordial strangers, raising children together. Or rather, she was raising them and he participated when asked. Though he was trying to get better and paid all the bills, she still carried the lion’s share of the parental responsibility and never hinted to him about how hard that might be, or what impact it had on other parts of her life. So her talking about her relationship to him was something new, and something he wasn’t too sure how to handle.

“Why isn’t it a huge surprise?” Chris asked. “You’re a great woman, Karen. Any guy…”

“When a man walks into a situation like mine, where I’m being taken care of by my ex, and he knows he can’t do the same … well, it wears on a relationship. Hector saw the Audi and …” She shrugged. “He doesn’t understand, I guess. And he doesn’t believe that you would do all that when there’s nothing between us anymore. Or maybe he knows there’s nothing between us but still can’t handle y’know, who you are. Who the hell knows?”

“I’m sorry,” Chris said, because he didn’t know what else to say.

But at least this Hector guy sounded a lot better than Sheryl’s husband, who for months after they were married was content to live in a house and drive a car that Chris paid for.

“Not your fault.” Karen looked down at her shoes and then up at him again, shaking her head. “I guess I just need to find a stronger man, that’s all.”

For a moment, the silence between them was heavy.

“You know, you’re still young. You could go back to school or something. I’d take care of the tuition.”

“Back to school?” Karen laughed a short bark. “And do what? I was never that good at school to begin with. So I’d what? Be a beautician? Run a clothing boutique?”

Chris shrugged. “Whatever you want, Karen.”

Now he just wanted to get the hell away. He didn’t have time for Karen’s identity crisis right now. He had a crisis of his own brewing. Between Karen and Sheryl who between them hadn’t an ounce of ambition, and Robyn who had maybe too much, Chris wasn’t sure which was worse. All he knew was that his woman was chomping at the bit to run off to Paris for almost a year without him, and he was stuck in a middle-school parking lot trying to be a goddamn career counselor.

“Sometimes I wonder whether it would just be easier,” Karen said, her eyes meeting his.

“Whether what would be easier?” Chris put his other leg in the car, put the key in the ignition.

“For you and me to still, you know,” Karen said.

Chris froze.

“Because then I would have a man. Or at least part of one.”

Upskirt: A Quick Peek at the ‘Afterwards’ Sequel

When I was in grade school, two of my friends got in trouble for letting boys look under their skirts. I remember watching as two boys shimmied along the floor until they were under the spread legs of my two friends, and looking up in glee. We were all young enough that I remember being confused about what could be so fascinating about looking at a girl’s underwear. I figured it out later. Much later.

But today I’m the one lifting my skirt. Figuratively speaking. And giving you a quick peek of my work-in-progress, the sequel to ‘Afterwards‘.

Blurb:

Chris Scaife is not the man Robyn Crandall thought he was.

Now that she’s shown him the possibility of a different life, she knows that Chris wants it. And he’s used to getting what he wants. But Robyn is seeing some possibilities of her own, as a highly-valued member of the legal team at Chris’ multimillion dollar corporation. Just as he’s given her the confidence to soar, will Chris try to clip her wings?

Once an unapologetic bachelor and distant father, Chris Scaife is now a different man. Engaged to Robyn Crandall, a woman whose love he never thought he could have—or deserve—Chris wants a wedding to happen, and happen soon. But Robyn’s plans are somewhat different from that.

_____________________

“Robyn, ma bichette …”

“You can’t call me things like that, Etienne. Not when I don’t understand what you’re saying. For all I know, it’s incredibly inappropriate.”

Robyn work

Robyn was smiling up at the face of Pouvoir Noir’s president on the monitor as Chris and Frank entered the conference room for the video conference. Leaning forward with her elbows on the conference table, Robyn was wearing her powder blue suit, the one with the short sleeves that showed off her toned arms and contrasted pleasantly with her caramel-toned skin, and a bright white shirt underneath. The skirt was little short for Chris’ taste, but he never tried to dictate what she should wear, just contented himself with the knowledge that he was the man who got to take it off her.

As he and Frank entered, she leaned back into her seat, still smiling at Ballard. Chris almost felt as though they’d walked in on a private conversation.

“Got started without us?” he asked, his voice impassive.

“We did not get too far,” Allard said from across the Atlantic. “We talked about my new toy, and not much more.”

“New toy?”

“Etienne bought some ridiculous sports car that goes about three hundred miles an hour.”

“And perhaps you will sit in the seat beside me one day. It is a feeling not to be missed.”

“Can we get to work?” Chris interrupted. “I only have thirty minutes for this meeting.”

Taking a place at the table next to Robyn, he lay his tablet before him and looked at Etienne Allard expectantly. Frank sat to his left and began rifling through a sheaf of papers. He and Robyn were the only people Chris knew who still worked primarily on paper, writing everything out longhand that probably had to be transcribed later anyway. Waste of time.

“So what’re we meeting about?” he asked, not looking up at Allard’s face, magnified in front of him.

“The timing of the office,” Allard said right away. “I think we are well behind the agreed upon schedule. And I need to tell something to my people. You see I don’t have my partners with me. So if there is a problem, I would like …”

“What gives you the impression there’s a problem?” Chris cut in.

“You acquire part of my company, with promises to rain money down on all our problems, and all of a sudden …” Allard made a puffing noise. “…nothing.”

“I wouldn’t say nothing. Your debts have been paid. Your creditors satisfied.”

“And my artists sit, as you say, with their thumbs up their asses. Waiting for the American knights in white armor.”

“Shining armor,” Chris corrected without thinking.

Frustration crossed Allard’s features. “An update would be welcome, my friend.”

Before Chris could speak, Robyn was leaning forward again. “Everything is moving ahead, I can assure you, Etienne. Admittedly at a different pace than planned, but we’re finalizing the team, and expect that by October …”

Octobre!

“I think that’s what we can promise, yes.” Robyn’s gaze was unflinching.

For a few moments there was silence while everyone waited for Ballard to absorb the words.

“This date, it is not within my control so I suppose there is nothing else to discuss.” On the monitor, he reached forward and suddenly they were staring into nothingness as the screen went blank.

For almost a minute, Chris, Robyn and Frank sat in silence.

“So,” Frank said. “I think we got a pissed-off Frenchman on our hands.”

“No one cares whether he’s pissed off or not,” Chris said. “We’re not on his timeline.”

“Well, we’re not on our timeline either,” Robyn pointed out. “It’s true. We planned to be over there a lot sooner, Chris. We implied to him that we would be well underway with …”

“Maybe we should resolve the question right now,” Frank said breaking in.

Chris knew the question. Hell, he even knew the resolution. But that didn’t mean he had to like it.

“Am I the hold-up?” he asked.

“No,” Frank said. “The timeline changed for lots of reasons. But we’re at the final decision-point. We need to know who’s going to be heading this thing up.”

Chris pushed back his seat and turned, looking directly at Robyn. “Sounds like the decision’s been made.” For a moment, her eyes dropped to her lap and then she raised them again, staring back at him.

She wasn’t, Chris realized, wearing her engagement ring. Sometimes she wore it to work, other times not. He’d long learned not to assume any significance to when that did and didn’t happen. But today, of all days, he would have liked to see it there.

Frank Casey cleared his throat, realizing that the conversation that was likely to happen probably didn’t pertain to him, nor to SE business necessarily. Shoving back from the conference room table he headed for the door.

“Robyn, I’ll see you downstairs,” he said before leaving them alone.

Chris turned his chair so that he was facing Robyn and clasped his hands between his knees, leaning toward her. She was so pretty. So, so pretty. Her eyes were a little watery, and she swallowed hard—Chris saw her throat bob as she did.

“So,” he began. “You really want this, huh?”

Robyn nodded, her eyes filling even more, the tears threatening to spill over onto her cheeks. She blinked rapidly to stave that off.

Chris lifted a forefinger. He was close enough to touch her hand so he did, gently stroking her bare ring finger.

“And I’ve got no say in this.”

Robyn sighed. “Of course you do. You could stop me if you wanted to.”

He supposed he could. He could forbid it. He could tell Frank he wouldn’t allow it. He could … fire her. And none of those things would change Robyn’s feelings for him one iota—of that Chris was certain. But it would change the nature of their relationship, and it would breach the trust she had in him, that he would let her be herself, never stifle her, never try to own her.

“I do want to,” he admitted, and saw the momentary alarm in Robyn’s eyes. Chris shook his head. “But I’m not going to.”

She gave a small gasp and then reached out, grabbing his hands in hers. “Baby …thank you. I know how hard …”

Chris pulled his hands free of hers and stood. “Let’s just talk about it later, okay?”